One of my favorite things about being an 18th-century geek who works in an 18th-century building is the time there alone my job requires. I love to share King’s Chapel’s history with visitors, and to write about it, but doing my opening/closing tasks in a meditative state of mind is also wonderful. The building gets a chance to show me the small, quiet things about itself, its little pockets of Creativity.
Here are two examples sourced in the beautiful work that craftspeople did long ago.
The huge original beams that cross the crypt ceiling were trees that sprouted in the early 1600s, perhaps the 1500s. Those who shaped these beams straddled them and took steps backwards as they worked with their blades. The visible marks show a lovely wave pattern that still evokes their hands and bodies at work.
Many of the small panes in the fairly majestic windows are original to the building. Being hand-made glass, they have inconsistencies in texture that make each a piece of craft. At certain times of day in certain seasons, the light coming through onto the pew walls (beautiful pieces of woodworking in their own right) collects and displays the character of the panes in bright patches of pattern.
Working Poetry Month, another work in progress, responses welcome
The silence circles its fingertip
on the rim of a glass, and the tone
comes, strung ice-water tight.
The afternoon looks out the window.
An old chair offers the body
ease, and neither speaks.
Senses float, here and there
exclaiming their hunger like gulls
that slice across the view outside.
The willow’s winter straws cross
and twist. How can these knotted strings be
eternal, simple, yellow since
before and after your words?
How can this tree not
know you, when it flows as you breathe?
You know, I literally have five more days of Poetry and Decorating Month, so don’t rush me.
I have seen segments of the British Antiques Roadshow with a host, three similar objects, and an expert in those particular objects. The host and surrounding onlookers try to figure out which object has the highest monetary value. All the objects are aesthetic delights.
I told my friend Sandy (link to her blog post about my blog) that I would post during Decorating Month about the bone we pick with the Boston Globe Sunday magazine “home” features. The theme of our rants is simple: How to Decorate Big Space with Big Money is of little use to a lot of us.
Frankly, I love looking at “real estate porn”, and most simple/edgy/boho/unusual home design fascinates me. I am also a fan of Marni Elyse Katz, who writes these features now. She’s good!
My own object/decor jam is more thrift, gift, and foraging. People write about that, too. I have six books on the topic and counting, and they’re mostly second-hand. And I practice. My glass square that came from an old job when they closed contains a highly curated collection of park tree branches, pond driftwood, and a stick I grabbed out of a community garden compost area. I mean, this thing is curated. It’s an arrrrrrangement.
I have framed book covers, book pages, and postcards on the wall. The pleasing display above my desk contains a thrift-store glass cylinder of stones and shells in colorful layers, a birch log, two ocean stones, a framed collage I made from a beat-up book, and the fired clay figure I made in Sunday School crafts class, who vaguely resembles Buddha in a beret. This is how I roll, and a lot of interesting authors have encouraged my roll.
So let’s play the Roadshow game and decide what is my most valuable work of art in the photo. If the Ansel Adams were the real deal, then yeah. But it’s posterboard in a frame, and someone left it in the building when they moved out. So it cost me nothing, but it is full of value. First thing I hung in this apartment, it connects me to the tree outside, and my gaze often wanders into its deepness when my gaze needs to wander.
The one on the right is a print of King’s Chapel, the wonderful 18th-century historic site where I used to work and hope to work again. It’s likely from a re-issue the artist’s son did in the 1970s. I know this because artist Jas Murray did a lot of local scenes and still seems to be very popular. I found it in a charity shop, hanging there waiting for me, which I’m sure is what it was doing. It fills my heart up every day, like a lover’s portrait.
The piece on the left is by artist and parfumier John Biebel. The pensive woman carries a long-stemmed flower and has a lovely old home growing out of her head. It was gift to me from my friend John. I find it exquisite and inspiring, and it represents the generous kindness of a friend I love.
Cost winner? King’s Chapel at $6. Value winner? Nope. Each one is beautiful to me, makes me happy when I look at it, surrounds me with Creativity. The Creative finding of Creative things is decor my way.
You know, one of the names in my family is Schwimmer. I’m pretty close to being one. So there is no hesitation about the following statement:
I. WAS ON. A BREAK!
(I’d say ask someone who watched TV in the 90s, but I understand it has come roaring back among the young people.)
I’m not sure why I was on a break, and more to the point, I’m not sure why I’m blogging again. I refer you and myself to the framed cartoon by James Thurber on my bookshelf: a woman is speaking to two other people about a fourth person on her knees tending flowers. The first woman explains: “She has the true Emily Dickinson spirit, except that she gets fed up occasionally.”
So there that is.
I will not bore you with that with which I was fed up. Yeah, snappy syntax was not one of those things.
I’ve found myself again jotting down unrelated trains of thought on creativity and liking how unrelated they are. Maybe I was fed up with a sense of set destination for the blog.
So here’s April: National Poetry Month and National Decorating Month, starting with a day for fools, with Shakespeare’s birthday on the way. Perfect time to begin blogging again, I guess. I think I plan to drop Creativity on you from lots of angles, including all those above, and even ideas and bits for a book I’m dreaming up.
NO, the blog’s re-birth is not to tugboat the book along. Shhh.
So, April 1. Let’s talk hats. Specifically, let’s talk about the jester’s hat, aka the fool’s hat or the “cap and bells”. Perfect, right? I always thought this headgear with the two or three jingling tentacles was an act of creativity, Someone’s image of court jesters of olden times that somehow stuck.
After all, it was illustrator Sidney Paget who put the never-mentioned deerstalker on Sherlock Holmes’s head. Talk about some serious branding and an immortal hat!
Several years ago, the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA had a wonderful exhibit on hats, both as fashion history and artistic creation. And, Lo, there was jester’s hat from days of yore. I was so surprised the icon was for real, and I blame Paget.
The “hat” in today’s visual is a miniature of the ship Belle Poule, an 18th-century frigate that did France proud in battle. Adorning already highly dressed hair with a ship as a chapeau became most fashionable. Yes, my book involves historic objects, why do you ask?
Jack-o-lanterns and, um, dismemberment. Winged skulls on gravestones and scones on strings. My October Creativity has been much focused on writing spooky history fun facts and trivia questions for this virtual event.
As sorry as I am that the historic site’s candlelit crypt tours could not happen this year, the first trivia night was a real hoot. Hoot…owl…Halloween…RIGHT? It was so good, I was sorry you all missed it.
The second and final event is tonight. If you’re looking for a new Halloween activity please join us. Play to win, or just enjoy the fun facts and scary stuff in good company. You will be supporting one of the many non-profit cultural institutions knocked hard by this murder hornet of a year. And it’s a piece of Creativity I’m proud of!
as landscape begins
to change. Or that
is just eyes
to gritty air.
do the encircling,
shines or clears
ripples, swans’ feet.
Pass a wine-stained,
winding a tree,
a potion. Yes
and no. Leaves
not the pacing
of minds. Sit
on a stone
by water. Pick up
with its dark
Hear the greens
you. Pond wind
cold coming fire.
Nuances of shape and color when the summer pinks fade are just as beautiful as the variations of autumn colors arriving. Flow out, flow in. Nature offers changing Creative gifts, and we offer our attention in return.
Photos by Me.
With sincere thanks to the gardeners of Pond Street in Jamaica Plain, MA for the artistry of their abundant gardens and their wish that passersby have pleasure.
After a six-day heat wave, any thoughts for an essay-like post are bobbing around my head like semi-cooked pasta. But the poetry is enough of a practice to have things to share.
I think these are two parents and their two fledgling cormorants at Jamaica Pond (Boston), and I’m always thankful to have them in my day. This poem was inspired by a beautiful online-gathering talk “at” the Greater Boston Zen Center.
When I took these photos, I was doing an exercise in Looking at the familiar objects in the historic site where I work. There was a quiet 30 minutes one day last winter, and I decided to pay closer attention to the sculptures and memorials on the walls. Not to the people they remembered, but to perfect stone ivy leaves or rich abstract designs. Each pointing to someone’s artistry, time, and focus.
That experience is a cliché you could read in a thousand blogs, right? So I’m not going to write about slowing down, being mindful, observing the present world, feeling appreciation, or any of that.
I’m also not going to offer this stone only as rarefied beauty in an historic church. I do find this work beautiful, and I miss being near it this spring. My heart does find Creativity sacred. But like much art, this art exists because of past financial privilege and white privilege, and sometimes that privilege existed because of the organized kidnapping and labor of enslaved people. It’s information the site shares with visitors as part of its History Program.
This is one of the longest periods the building has remained empty since 1754, and right now it might seem to have its own closed-off existence. But it doesn’t exist outside the world, and it holds a lot to Look At. Beautiful and otherwise, sometimes at the same time.
By the way, please visit King’s Chapel in Boston, with its fascinating, difficult history and remarkable building, at the History Program’s pandemic-expanded web site. We’ve worked hard on it and hope you will explore. When the building is open again, please visit in person. We have a lot to share.